Track: Streets of Long Beach
Race: Grand Prix of Long Beach
Date: April 9, 2017
No. 1 Menards Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet – Simon Pagenaud
Laps Completed: 85/85
Laps Led: 0
Points Position: 3rd (-22 pts.)
Recap: Simon Pagenaud began his march to the front with the drop of the green flag at Sunday’s Verizon IndyCar Series (VICS) Grand Prix of Long Beach. Forced to start from the back following an interference penalty in Saturday’s qualifying session, the No. 1 Menards Chevrolet team started the race with Firestone alternate red tires and moved quickly through the field. Another set of alternate tires were installed on a Lap 12 pit stop and Pagenaud, the defending race winner and series champion, moved into the eighth position on Lap 19. A flat left rear tire stunted his drive to the front on Lap 31 and pushed him back to the 16th spot in the running order. Following a stop for new tires, Pagenaud resumed his ascent through field and moved into the top five with just five laps remaining. Pagenaud was able to close strong for his fourth straight top-five finish at the Southern California street circuit. The reigning champ is now third in the standings, 22 points behind leader Sebastien Bourdais, who followed his St. Petersburg win with a runner-up finish in Long Beach. Unable to defend his Long Beach crown, Pagenaud heads to Barber Motorsports Park for the next Verizon IndyCar Series race as the defending race winner there as well.
Quote: “It was exciting. At the beginning we were able to pass a lot of cars. The Menards Chevrolet was phenomenal all weekend. I was really excited before the race because I knew we had such a strong weapon. It was all about having the right strategy to make it work. We actually switched strategies because it was going so well at the beginning. The flat tire set us back a little, but it was a good championship day. I’m so proud of the team. Everyone worked really hard to come out of here with a good result.”
No. 2 Hum by Verizon Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet – Josef Newgarden
Laps Completed: 85/85
Laps Led: 0
Points Position: 5th (-34 pts.)
Recap: Josef Newgarden and the No. 2 Hum by Verizon Chevrolet team had a strong start on the Streets of Long Beach Sunday afternoon as he started eighth and began to work his way forward. After an on-track incident involving teammate Will Power and Charlie Kimball on Lap 1, Newgarden was able to move into the seventh position. On Lap 7, he advanced to sixth place. Newgarden continued his way up the running order as he moved into the top five on Lap 8. The No. 2 hum Chevrolet experienced a setback on Lap 18 when Newgarden and the team fell back into the eighth position, but he was back running up in fourth place by Lap 32. After a pit stop, Newgarden fell to the 14th position but only briefly as he quickly made his way back inside the top 10, where he ran for the remainder of the event. By Lap 40, Newgarden was running in eighth place and he moved his way back up to fifth place by Lap 50. After running as high as he would all day in second place on Lap 58, Newgarden visited pit lane four laps later for his final stop of the afternoon. He retained a top-five position as he settled into fourth place and the native Tennessean remained there until Lap 79 when a caution was followed by a late-race restart. Newgarden took advantage of mechanical issues with some of the other frontrunners and he seized third place on Lap 80 and never let the position go. He threatened Bourdais for second place in the closing laps but brought the hum by Verizon Chevrolet to the finish in third place for his first podium result since joining Team Penske. It also marked Newgarden’s best finish in six career starts at Long Beach.
Quote: “We ended up finishing third which is a good result for us and the No. 2 hum Chevy team and I’m pretty happy about that. I’m disappointed that we couldn’t get a Penske car in Victory Lane but at least we got a podium under our belts so we’re really happy about that for the No. 2 car. I feel like we had amazing speed all day and we had the fuel mileage. Team Chevy did a great job for us. We had fast pit stops and the guys took care of the car great. So we were right there. We finished a strong third this weekend and that’s something we can go to Barber and hopefully get that first win, so we’re excited to go on to the next one.”
No. 3 Auto Club of Southern California Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet – Helio Castroneves
Start: 1st (48th career VICS Pole)
Laps Completed: 85/85
Laps Led: 0
Points Position: 6th (-42 pts.)
Recap: To coin a literary phrase, it was the best of times and the worst of times for Helio Castroneves and the Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet in the Grand Prix of Long Beach. In Saturday’s qualifying session, the Brazilian collected his third consecutive Verizon P1 Pole Award at Long Beach and the 48th of his INDYCAR career that ranks fourth all-time in series history. All systems were go with a start from the pole position Sunday, but an electronic glitch caused an engine problem at the start of the race and the veteran racer fell to sixth place when the field crossed the line at the completion of the first lap. Castroneves, a winner at Long Beach in 2001, settled in at the 10th position for several laps. The electronic issues returned during a Lap 61 pit stop in which he was penalized by series officials for speeding on pit road and he had to serve a drive-through penalty. While serving that penalty, Castroneves again was nabbed for exceeding the speed limit on pit road. This time, he was sent to the rear of the field prior to a Lap 69 restart. Castroneves deftly picked up several positions in the closing laps to score a ninth-place finish in the Auto Club of Southern California Chevy and it was his fourth top-10 Long Beach result in the last five years. Castroneves leaves California sixth in the championship point standings, 42 points off the leader’s pace.
Quote: “It just wasn’t our day. The Auto Club of Southern California was really fast but we had a few other problems that kind of ruined the day. I think we had some electronic problems that caused us to mess up the start of the race and the pit road speeding penalties. We’ll regroup and head to Barber. One of these days all of this bad luck will even out. It can’t come soon enough.”
No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet – Will Power
Laps Completed: 84/85
Laps Led: 0
Points Position: 17th (-63 pts.)
Recap: The Streets of Long Beach took their toll on Will Power and the No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet on Sunday as the former series champion had a rough start and was never really able to recover. After starting ninth, Power was involved on a Lap 1 incident with Charlie Kimball which derailed the momentum the team built earlier in the weekend after producing the fastest practice time on Friday afternoon. Following Sunday’s early-race incident, Power found himself running in the 18th position on the Lap 5 restart after coming to pit lane for a front wing replacement, tires and fuel. From there, the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevy tried to make its way back through the field but Power couldn’t make up much ground on the tight street course from back in the pack. The two-time Long Beach race winner was running in 16th place with 15 laps remaining. Following a late-race caution, Power was able to secure several spots to close the day as he moved up to 13th place by the checkered flag, though he finished one lap down to the leaders. With two tough races to start the season, Power is positioned 17th in the series standings heading to Barber Motorsports Park, where he’s also won twice in his career.
Quote: “It was a tough day for the No. 12 Verizon Chevy. We were caught up in an incident early in the race and I feel like it really ruined my day. It was an awful situation to be put in since we had nowhere to go when we made contact with the wall. Still, we battled. I’m really proud of my guys for working as hard as they did to try and come back from the incident but we couldn’t. We’re ready to head to Barber and really get another chance to perform well.”
Next Race: The Verizon IndyCar Series travels to Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama for the Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, April 21-23. Sunday’s race coverage will begin at 3 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network and the IndyCar Radio Network.
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!